“A ‘Buried’ Treasure”
Directed by Rodrigo Cortés
If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, then director Rodrigo Cortés and screenwriter Chris Sparling are pretty much wearing their hearts on their sleeves. That’s because from the moment that their fantastic new film starts — with it’s animated Saul Bass-inspired opening credits and frenetic Bernard Herrmann-style musical score — “Buried” sets the stage for a brilliantly twisted suspense thriller that would have made Alfred Hitchcock proud.
And center stage for a one-man show is a tour-de-force performance from Ryan Reynolds as contract truck driver Paul Conroy, who spends the film’s entire 94-minute running time buried six feet under (give or take a few inches), with only a Zippo and a cell phone to light his way. That phone turns out to be his lifeline to the outside world — specifically, to his family members back home, the Iraqi insurgents who are holding him hostage and the government officials who are (supposedly) doing everything they can to secure his release.
Though it was acquired by Lionsgate for $3.2 million back in January at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, “Buried” made the rounds at the recently-concluded 35th Toronto International Film Festival, where it instantly drew comparisons to Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle’s latest, “127 Hours.” That finely crafted thriller tells the true story of a daring hiker who was trapped under a boulder for days until he painstakingly cut off his right arm to set himself free.
But where “127 Hours” was a more open film, in that it showed how its unlucky protagonist landed in his unfortunate predicament while being interspersed with cutaways and flashbacks, the claustrophobic brilliance of “Buried” is that the entire film is told from Conroy’s point of view inside — and only inside — the coffin. How he got there is never shown, nor are the faces of the insurgents and family members on the other end of the phone (though they are certainly heard).
It’s a gimmick that could have gotten old fast, but what truly makes the film so clever is the way that new information is constantly introduced during Conroy’s phone conversations that gradually raise (and change) the political and personal stakes of the story. Adding to that tension is Conroy’s dwindling air supply, his decreasing cell phone power and an uninvited guest that just so happens to be buried in the coffin with him.
Credibility may be strained a bit when thought is given as to why Conroy’s air supply doesn’t run out sooner, but that’s a minor complaint when compared to the many surprises and treasures “Buried” has to offer. And even though Ryan Reynolds has proven before that he can handle a variety of genres — comedy (“The Proposal”), drama (“Adventureland”) and action (“Blade: Trinity”) — he digs deeper here than ever before for the performance of his career.
“Buried” may seem like the kind of movie that Hitchcock would have made during his heyday, but Cortés and Sparling do right by their ambitions with a movie that defies modern conventions, right down to its shocker of an ending. The result is an unforgettable cinematic experience that you’ll take with you to the grave.
Verdict: SEE IT!